Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jun 2, 2021.
Generic name: METHADONE HYDROCHLORIDE 5mg
Dosage form: tablet
Conditions for Distribution and Use of Methadone Products for the Treatment of Opioid Addiction
Code of Federal Regulations, Title 42, Sec 8: Methadone products when used for the treatment of opioid addiction in detoxification or maintenance programs, shall be dispensed only by opioid treatment programs (and agencies, practitioners or institutions by formal agreement with the program sponsor) certified by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and approved by the designated state authority. Certified treatment programs shall dispense and use methadone in oral form only and according to the treatment requirements stipulated in the Federal Opioid Treatment Standards (42 CFR 8.12). See below for important regulatory exceptions to the general requirement for certification to provide opioid agonist treatment.
Failure to abide by the requirements in these regulations may result in criminal prosecution, seizure of the drug supply, revocation of the program approval, and injunction precluding operation of the program.
Regulatory Exceptions to the General Requirement for Certification to Provide Opioid Agonist Treatment:
- During inpatient care, when the patient was admitted for any condition other than concurrent opioid addiction (pursuant to 21CFR 1306.07(c)), to facilitate the treatment of the primary admitting diagnosis).
- During an emergency period of no longer than 3 days while definitive care for the addiction is being sought in an appropriately licensed facility (pursuant to 21CFR 1306.07(b)).
Important General Information
- The peak respiratory depressant effect of methadone occurs later and persists longer than its peak therapeutic effect.
- A high degree of opioid tolerance does not eliminate the possibility of methadone overdose, iatrogenic or otherwise. Deaths have been reported during conversion to methadone from chronic, high-dose treatment with other opioid agonists and during initiation of methadone treatment of addiction in subjects previously abusing high doses of other agonists.
- With repeated dosing, methadone is retained in the liver and then slowly released, prolonging the duration of potential toxicity.
- Methadone has a narrow therapeutic index, especially when combined with other drugs.
Patient Access to Naloxone for the Emergency Treatment of Opioid Overdose
Discuss the availability of naloxone for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose with the patient and caregiver and assess the potential need for access to naloxone, both when initiating and renewing treatment with DOLOPHINE [see Warnings and Precautions (5.1, 5.3, 5.7) Overdosage (10)].
For Patients Being Treated for Pain:
Consider prescribing naloxone, based on the patient’s risk factors for overdose, such as concomitant use of CNS depressants, a history of opioid use disorder, or prior opioid overdose. The presence of risk factors for overdose should not prevent the proper management of pain in any given patient.
For Patients Being Treated for Opioid Addiction:
Because patients being treated for opioid use disorder have the potential for relapse, putting them at risk for opioid overdose, strongly consider prescribing naloxone for the emergency treatment of opioid overdose.
Advise patients and caregivers that naloxone may also be administered for a known or suspected overdose with DOLOPHINE itself.
Also consider prescribing naloxone if the patient has household members (including children) or other close contacts at risk for accidental ingestion or overdose. If naloxone is prescribed, educate patients and caregivers on how to treat with naloxone. [see Warnings and Precautions (5.3), Patient Counseling Information (17)].
Inform patients and caregivers of their options for obtaining naloxone as permitted by individual state naloxone dispensing and prescribing requirements or guidelines (e.g., by prescription, directly from a pharmacist, or as part of a community-based program)[see Patient Counseling Information (17)].
DOLOPHINE Tablets for Management of Pain
Important Dosage and Administration Information:
DOLOPHINE Tablets should be prescribed only by healthcare professionals who are knowledgeable in the use of potent opioids for the management of chronic pain.
Consider the following important factors that differentiate methadone from other opioid analgesics:
- There is high interpatient variability in absorption, metabolism, and relative analgesic potency of methadone. Population-based equianalgesic conversion ratios between methadone and other opioids are not accurate when applied to individuals.
- The duration of analgesic action of methadone is 4 to 8 hours (based on single-dose studies) but the plasma elimination half-life is 8 to 59 hours.
- With repeated dosing, the potency of methadone increases due to systemic accumulation.
- Steady-state plasma concentrations and full analgesic effects are not attained until at least 3 to 5 days on a dose, and may take longer in some patients.
Use the lowest effective dosage for the shortest duration consistent with individual patient treatment goals [see Warnings and Precautions (5)].
Initiate the dosing regimen for each patient individually, taking into account the patient’s severity of pain, patient response, prior analgesic treatment experience, and risk factors for addiction, abuse, and misuse [see Warnings and Precautions (5.1)].
Monitor patients closely for respiratory depression, especially within the first 24 to 72 hours of initiating therapy and following dosage increases with DOLOPHINE Tablets and adjust the dosage accordingly [see Warnings and Precautions (5.3)].
Use of DOLOPHINE Tablets as the First Opioid Analgesic: Initiate treatment with DOLOPHINE Tablets with 2.5 mg orally every 8 to 12 hours.
Conversion from Other Oral Opioids to DOLOPHINE Tablets: Discontinue all other around-the-clock opioid drugs when DOLOPHINE Tablets therapy is initiated. Deaths have occurred in opioid-tolerant patients during conversion to methadone.
The potency of methadone relative to other opioid analgesics is nonlinear and increases with increasing dose. Table 1 provides an estimated conversion factor for use when converting patients from another opioid to methadone. Because of the high inter-patient variability in absorption, metabolism, and relative potency, it is critical to avoid overestimating the methadone dose which can lead to fatal respiratory depression. It is safer to underestimate a patient’s 24-hour methadone dosage and provide rescue medication (e.g., immediate-release opioid) than to overestimate the 24-hour methadone dosage and manage an adverse reaction due to an overdose.
Consider the following when using the information in Table 1:
- This is not a table of equianalgesic doses.
- The conversion factors in this table are only for the conversion from another oral opioid analgesic to DOLOPHINE Tablets.
- The table cannot be used to convert from DOLOPHINE Tablets to another opioid. Doing so will result in an overestimation of the dose of the new opioid and may result in fatal overdose.
Table 1: Conversion Factors to DOLOPHINE Tablets
Total Daily Baseline Oral
Morphine Equivalent Dose
Estimated Daily Oral Methadone Requirement as Percent of Total Daily Morphine Equivalent Dose
< 100 mg
20% to 30%
100 to 300 mg
10% to 20%
300 to 600 mg
8% to 12%
600 mg to 1,000 mg
5% to 10%
> 1,000 mg
< 5 %
To calculate the estimated DOLOPHINE Tablets dose using Table 1:
- For patients on a single opioid, sum the current total daily dose of the opioid, convert it to a Morphine Equivalent Dose according to specific conversion factor for that specific opioid, then multiply the Morphine Equivalent Dose by the corresponding percentage in the above table to calculate the approximate oral methadone daily dose. Divide the total daily methadone dose derived from the table above to reflect the intended dosing schedule (i.e., for administration every 8 hours, divide total daily methadone dose by 3).
- For patients on a regimen of more than one opioid, calculate the approximate oral methadone dose for each opioid and sum the totals to obtain the approximate total methadone daily dose. Divide the total daily methadone dose derived from the table above to reflect the intended dosing schedule (i.e., for administration every 8 hours, divide total daily methadone dose by 3).
- For patients on a regimen of fixed-ratio opioid/non-opioid analgesic products, use only the opioid component of these products in the conversion.
Always round the dose down, if necessary, to the appropriate DOLOPHINE Tablets strength(s) available.
Example conversion from a single opioid to DOLOPHINE Tablets:
Sum the total daily dose of the opioid (in this case, Morphine Extended Release Tablets 50 mg twice daily)
- 50 mg Morphine Extended Release Tablets 2 times daily = 100 mg total daily dose of Morphine
Calculate the approximate equivalent dose of DOLOPHINE Tablets based on the total daily dose of Morphine using Table 1.
- 100 mg total daily dose of Morphine x 15% (10% to 20% per Table 1) = 15 mg DOLOPHINE Tablets daily
Calculate the approximate starting dose of DOLOPHINE Tablets to be given every 12 hours. Round down, if necessary, to the appropriate DOLOPHINE Tablets strengths available.
- 15 mg daily / 2 = 7.5 mg DOLOPHINE Tablets every 12 hours
- Then 7.5 mg is rounded down to 5 mg DOLOPHINE Tablets every 12 hours
Close observation and frequent titration are warranted until pain management is stable on the new opioid. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of opioid withdrawal or for signs of over-sedation/toxicity after converting patients to DOLOPHINE Tablets.
Conversion from Parenteral Methadone to DOLOPHINE Tablets: Use a conversion ratio of 1:2 mg for parenteral to oral methadone (e.g., 5 mg parenteral methadone to 10 mg oral methadone).
Titration and Maintenance of Therapy for Pain
Individually titrate DOLOPHINE Tablets to a dose that provides adequate analgesia and minimizes adverse reactions. Continually reevaluate patients receiving DOLOPHINE Tablets to assess the maintenance of pain control and the relative incidence of adverse reactions, as well as monitoring for the development of addiction, abuse, or misuse [see Warnings and Precautions (5.1)]. Frequent communication is important among the prescriber, other members of the healthcare team, the patient, and the caregiver/family during periods of changing analgesic requirements, including initial titration. During chronic therapy, periodically reassess the continued need for the use of opioid analgesics.
Patients who experience breakthrough pain may require a dose increase of DOLOPHINE Tablets, or may need rescue medication with an appropriate dose of an immediate-release analgesic. If the level of pain increases after dosage stabilization, attempt to identify the source of increased pain before increasing the DOLOPHINE Tablets dosage.
Because of individual variability in the pharmacokinetic profile (i.e., terminal half-life (T1/2) from 8 to 59 hours in different studies [see Clinical Pharmacology (12.3)], titrate DOLOPHINE Tablets slowly, with dose increases no more frequent than every 3 to 5 days. However, because of this high variability, some patients may require substantially longer periods between dose increases (up to 12 days). Monitor patients closely for the development of potentially life-threatening adverse reactions (e.g., CNS and respiratory depression).
If unacceptable opioid-related adverse reactions are observed, the subsequent doses may be reduced and/or the dosing interval adjusted (i.e., every 8 hours or every 12 hours). Adjust the dose to obtain an appropriate balance between management of pain and opioid-related adverse reactions.
Safe Reduction or Discontinuation of DOLOPHINE Tablets for Pain
Do not abruptly discontinue DOLOPHINE in patients who may be physically dependent on opioids. Rapid discontinuation of opioid analgesics in patients who are physically dependent on opioids has resulted in serious withdrawal symptoms, uncontrolled pain, and suicide. Rapid discontinuation has also been associated with attempts to find other sources of opioid analgesics, which may be confused with drug-seeking for abuse. Patients may also attempt to treat their pain or withdrawal symptoms with illicit opioids, such as heroin, and other substances.
When a decision has been made to decrease the dose or discontinue therapy in an opioid-dependent patient taking DOLOPHINE, there are a variety of factors that should be considered, including the dose of DOLOPHINE the patient has been taking, the duration of treatment, the type of pain being treated, and the physical and psychological attributes of the patient. It is important to ensure ongoing care of the patient and to agree on an appropriate tapering schedule and follow-up plan so that patient and provider goals and expectations are clear and realistic. When opioid analgesics are being discontinued due to a suspected substance use disorder, evaluate and treat the patient, or refer for evaluation and treatment of the substance use disorder. Treatment should include evidence-based approaches, such as medication assisted treatment of opioid use disorder. Complex patients with co-morbid pain and substance use disorders may benefit from referral to a specialist.
There are no standard opioid tapering schedules that are suitable for all patients. Good clinical practice dictates a patient-specific plan to taper the dose of the opioid gradually. For patients on DOLOPHINE who are physically opioid-dependent, initiate the taper by a small enough increment (e.g., no greater than 10% to 25% of the total daily dose) to avoid withdrawal symptoms, and proceed with dose-lowering at an interval of every 2 to 4 weeks. Patients who have been taking opioids for briefer periods of time may tolerate a more rapid taper.
It may be necessary to provide the patient with lower dosage strengths to accomplish a successful taper. Reassess the patient frequently to manage pain and withdrawal symptoms, should they emerge. Common withdrawal symptoms include restlessness, lacrimation, rhinorrhea, yawning, perspiration, chills, myalgia, and mydriasis. Other signs and symptoms also may develop, including irritability, anxiety, backache, joint pain, weakness, abdominal cramps, insomnia, nausea, anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, or increased blood pressure, respiratory rate, or heart rate. If withdrawal symptoms arise, it may be necessary to pause the taper for a period of time or raise the dose of the opioid analgesic to the previous dose, and then proceed with a slower taper. In addition, monitor patients for any changes in mood, emergence of suicidal thoughts, or use of other substances.
When managing patients taking opioid analgesics, particularly those who have been treated for a long duration and/or with high doses for chronic pain, ensure that a multimodal approach to pain management, including mental health support (if needed), is in place prior to initiating an opioid analgesic taper. A multimodal approach to pain management may optimize the treatment of chronic pain, as well as assist with the successful tapering of the opioid analgesic [see Warnings and Precautions (5.15), Drug Abuse and Dependence (9.3)].
Induction/Initial Dosing for Detoxification and Maintenance Treatment of Opioid Addiction
For detoxification and maintenance of opioid dependence, methadone should be administered in accordance with the treatment standards cited in 42 CFR Section 8.12, including limitations on unsupervised administration.
Administer the initial methadone dose under supervision, when there are no signs of sedation or intoxication, and the patient shows symptoms of withdrawal. An initial single dose of 20 to 30 mg of DOLOPHINE Tablets will often be sufficient to suppress withdrawal symptoms. The initial dose should not exceed 30 mg.
To make same-day dosing adjustments, have the patient wait 2 to 4 hours for further evaluation, when peak levels have been reached. Provide an additional 5 to 10 mg of DOLOPHINE Tablets if withdrawal symptoms have not been suppressed or if symptoms reappear.
The total daily dose of DOLOPHINE Tablets on the first day of treatment should not ordinarily exceed 40 mg. Adjust the dose over the first week of treatment based on control of withdrawal symptoms at the time of expected peak activity (e.g., 2 to 4 hours after dosing). When adjusting the dose, keep in mind that methadone levels will accumulate over the first several days of dosing; deaths have occurred in early treatment due to the cumulative effects. Instruct patients that the dose will “hold” for a longer period of time as tissue stores of methadone accumulate.
Use lower initial doses for patients whose tolerance is expected to be low at treatment entry. Any patient who has not taken opioids for more than 5 days may no longer be tolerant. Do not determine initial doses based on previous treatment episodes or dollars spent per day on illicit drug use.
During the induction phase of methadone maintenance treatment, patients are being withdrawn from opioids and may have opioid withdrawal symptoms. Monitor patients for signs and symptoms of opioid withdrawal including: lacrimation, rhinorrhea, sneezing, yawning, excessive perspiration, goose-flesh, fever, chilling alternating with flushing, restlessness, irritability, weakness, anxiety, depression, dilated pupils, tremors, tachycardia, abdominal cramps, body aches, involuntary twitching and kicking movements, anorexia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, intestinal spasms, and weight loss and consider dose adjustment as indicated.
For a brief course of stabilization followed by a period of medically supervised withdrawal, titrate the patient to a total daily dose of about 40 mg in divided doses to achieve an adequate stabilizing level. After 2 to 3 days of stabilization, gradually decrease the dose of DOLOPHINE Tablets. Decrease the dose of DOLOPHINE Tablets on a daily basis or at 2-day intervals, keeping the amount of DOLOPHINE Tablets sufficient to keep withdrawal symptoms at a tolerable level. Hospitalized patients may tolerate a daily reduction of 20% of the total daily dose. Ambulatory patients may need a slower schedule.
Titration and Maintenance Treatment of Opioid Dependence
Titrate patients in maintenance treatment to a dose that prevents opioid withdrawal symptoms for 24 hours, reduces drug hunger or craving, and blocks or attenuates the euphoric effects of self-administered opioids, ensuring that the patient is tolerant to the sedative effects of methadone. Most commonly, clinical stability is achieved at doses between 80 to
120 mg/day. During prolonged administration of methadone, monitor patients for persistent constipation and manage accordingly.
Medically Supervised Withdrawal after a Period of Maintenance Treatment for Opioid Addiction
There is considerable variability in the appropriate rate of methadone taper in patients choosing medically supervised withdrawal from methadone treatment. Dose reductions should generally be less than 10% of the established tolerance or maintenance dose, and 10 to 14-day intervals should elapse between dose reductions. Apprise patients of the high risk of relapse to illicit drug use associated with discontinuation of methadone maintenance treatment.
Risk of Relapse in Patients on Methadone Maintenance Treatment of Opioid Addiction
Abrupt opioid discontinuation can lead to development of opioid withdrawal symptoms [see Drug Abuse and Dependence (9.3)]. Opioid withdrawal symptoms have been associated with an increased risk of relapse to illicit drug use in susceptible patients.
Considerations for Management of Acute Pain during Methadone Maintenance Treatment
Patients in methadone maintenance treatment for opioid dependence who experience physical trauma, postoperative pain or other acute pain cannot be expected to derive analgesia from their existing dose of methadone. Such patients should be administered analgesics, including opioids, in doses that would otherwise be indicated for non-methadone-treated patients with similar painful conditions. When opioids are required for management of acute pain in methadone maintenance patients, somewhat higher and/or more frequent doses will often be required than would be the case for non-tolerant patients due to the opioid tolerance induced by methadone.
Dosage Adjustment during Pregnancy
Methadone clearance may be increased during pregnancy. During pregnancy, a woman’s methadone dose may need to be increased or the dosing interval decreased [see Use in Specific Populations (8.1)].
Frequently asked questions
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